What Is Democratic Leadership in Nursing?


Nursing requires strong leadership skills. The effectiveness of nursing leadership is determined by the style used. Democratic leadership in nursing is a style that promotes collaboration, employee input in decision-making, and open communication. It enables employees to be and do their best by growing personally and professionally.

In several ways, authoritarian leadership differs from democratic leadership. Authoritarian leaders issue orders, enforce rules and make decisions without consulting their subordinates. Depending on the application context, both styles have advantages and disadvantages. However, democratic nursing leadership is exceptionally effective in all areas of nursing.

Democratic Nursing in Leadership

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective organizational leadership styles. A democratic leader encourages greater participation from all employees, particularly in decision-making. The leader makes the final decision or calls in this leadership style.

They do, however, consider the ideas and opinions of their subordinates. The leader promotes open communication, knowledge sharing, and the development of trusting and honest relationships. A nurse leader, for example, should consult with other nurses to find practical solutions to employee burnout and high employee turnover. When making such a critical decision, the democratic leader considers the ideas and opinions of other nurses.

Democratic nursing leadership emphasizes improving systems and processes while ignoring individual errors. This type of leadership motivates employees to do and be their best while also encouraging the formation of productive and efficient teams. Employees are committed to their jobs because they feel valued and a part of a team. Furthermore, it improves job satisfaction and promotes personal and professional development.

Employee development stems from the leader’s propensity to provide performance feedback. Employee morale and motivation are improved when they are given responsibilities and the freedom to make critical decisions. Collaboration is a crucial characteristic of democratic leadership. Collaboration between leaders and their employees fosters harmony and solid relationships and promotes creativity and innovation. Both leaders and employees bear a great deal of responsibility.

As a result, mistakes are viewed as the result of faulty processes rather than the actions of a specific employee. Employee participation in decision-making and the distribution of responsibilities create an empowering work environment that boosts productivity and performance. Democratic leaders are egalitarian, consensus builders, engaged, role models, open-minded, team-oriented, adaptive, and flexible. A hospital unit manager, for example, should encourage floor nurses to share their ideas and opinions about how hospital units should be run.

In contrast to democratic leaders who encourage employees to participate in decision-making processes, authoritarian leaders rely solely on their own knowledge and understanding. They make all decisions without consulting their subordinates. They employ negative reinforcement to ensure that employees adhere to their established rules.

In this regard, they use their power to exert control over their employees. Democratic leaders promote open communication, trust, and collaboration. Authoritarian leaders, on the other hand, stifle open communication, trust, and teamwork. Trust grows from openness and transparency, as well as allowing employees to participate in decision-making processes, particularly when it comes to matters critical to their job performance.

Authoritarian leaders make decisions on behalf of their employees whether or not they are appropriate. Democratic leadership promotes information dissemination and employee sharing. On the other hand, authoritarian leaders withhold critical information from employees to maintain their power. Finally, authoritarian leaders are not tolerant of errors.

Characteristics of democratic leadership in nursing

There are a few characteristics that teams exhibit when they are managed democratically. Here are some characteristics of a democratically led team.

1.      Employees are very engaged

High levels of employee engagement are indicative of effective democratic leadership. This type of leadership style necessitates team participation in decision-making. Good democratic leaders actively encourage and listen to their team members’ suggestions for new ideas and creative solutions.

When team members feel safe enough to share their thoughts and ideas, they feel psychologically safe. Psychological safety promotes problem-solving, increases collaboration, and can aid in the prevention of employee turnover.

2.      There are numerous opportunities for brainstorming

The goal of democratic leadership is to have a wide range of options from various points of view. When done correctly, teams frequently gather for brainstorming sessions in which individuals share their ideas regularly. This enables team members to collaborate to develop innovative solutions and leaders to leverage the expertise of their team members effectively.

3.      The company culture promotes collaboration

The democratic management style promotes teamwork. Influential leaders encourage their teams to collaborate in order to generate new ideas and creative solutions to complex problems.

If this collaboration were not possible, team members would be forced to generate ideas in isolation. Facilitating collaborative moments is an essential responsibility for influential leaders.

4.      Nursing Democratic and Leadership Styles

Nursing management is now regarded as a distinct profession, requiring specialized training, skills, and characteristics (which typically come more naturally to some than others). Effective nurse management is critical to hospitals and health systems because it drives a team’s motivation, performance, and job satisfaction. Building on this logic, nurse managers who understand their own nursing leadership style will be more successful in managing their team/unit, resulting in better patient care.

The most effective nursing leadership styles recognize that working as a team benefits both nursing staff and patients. Recognizing that the unit’s success is heavily reliant on the strength of the nursing leader should compel nursing leaders to learn about the various types of leadership styles in nursing management. Once a foundational understanding of healthcare leadership styles is established, nursing leaders can take a personal inventory of how they fit into current styles and assess which styles they might be more successful with in the future.

5 groups of nursing leadership styles

1.      Nursing Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a management style that encourages employees to take ownership of their roles and go above and beyond. Rather than assigning tasks from the top, transformational leadership teaches people how to think rather than simply doing what is told. They are known as quiet leaders because they lead by example.

Advantages of Transformational Leadership

As these leaders excel at conflict resolution, transformational leadership in nursing inspires and motivates employees to find better ways to achieve a goal. They can mobilize people into workable groups, increasing a group’s well-being, morale, and motivation through excellent rapport.

The Drawbacks of Transformational Leadership

In the early stages of initiatives or in ad hoc situations, transformational leadership in nursing may be ineffective. This leadership style necessitates an existing structure for further development and growth to occur, making it unsuitable for new organizations.

2.      Democratic Leadership in Nursing

When making decisions, democratic leadership welcomes and encourages team input and communication. Relationships are essential to this type of leader; they want their team to feel comfortable and willing to express concerns, opinions, and ideas. A democratic leader recognizes the importance of providing feedback to their team, viewing communication as a two-way street.

Advantages of Democratic Leadership Style

Democratic leadership in nursing can help to ensure that everyone on the team feels valued and comfortable speaking up. Transparency and input from team members with the most expertise, not necessarily seniority or highest rank, are valued in high-reliability organizations, making this type of leader beneficial in creating a culture that encourages input from the entire team.

The Drawbacks of Democratic Leadership

When a quick response is required, a democratic leadership style in nursing can be detrimental to the team. Time is of the essence in an environment where adverse events and emergencies occur, and democratic leaders who are unable to make quick decisions independently and without input from the team may struggle to succeed.

3.      Nursing Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is most common in new or inexperienced nurse leaders. Laissez-faire nursing leaders, also known as “hands-off” leaders, rarely provide direction or feedback to their teams, preferring to let them function as they see fit, without strict supervision. These leaders are not regarded as capable decision-makers.

Advantages of a Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

A highly experienced and effective team may thrive under laissez-faire leadership in nursing because it does not micromanage or dictate how the team should function. This philosophy supports the theory that if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed or changed, which a laissez-faire nursing leader would not do.

The Drawbacks of a Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Because of the constant state of change and the need for quick decision-making, laissez-faire nursing isn’t always a good fit for the healthcare industry. With experienced nurses retiring and a surge in new nurse onboarding, laissez-faire leadership in nursing is becoming increasingly unlikely to help the team succeed in being proactive rather than reactive to patient safety issues.

4.      Autocratic Nursing Leadership

In contrast to laissez-faire leadership, autocratic leadership in nursing is highly “hands-on” and involves much decision-making. Nursing leaders who use the autocratic leadership style are at ease making decisions without consulting their team and frequently withhold information from the team in general. This type of leader has a low tolerance for errors.

Advantages of Autocratic Leadership Style

When quick decisions are required, autocratic leadership in nursing will be effective. This could be useful for the team in emergencies or when implementing “zero occurrences” policies (e.g., driving for zero pressure ulcers, etc.).

The Drawbacks of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership in nursing does not foster trust or communication among team members but instead fosters a culture in which team members’ valuable insights and knowledge go untapped. This type of leader discourages collaborative decision-making and transparency, both of which impede an organization’s journey to high reliability.

5.      Nursing Servant Leadership

Servant leadership, which has recently gained popularity, refers to leaders who influence and motivate others by building relationships and developing the skills of individual team members. The term, coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, refers to leaders who are drawn to serve first and then lead. Servant leadership in nursing implies that the leader is naturally concerned with providing each team member with the resources and tools they require to succeed.

Advantages of Servant Leadership

Servant leadership in nursing can be highly beneficial when leading a multidisciplinary, diverse team. Servant leaders are exceptional at meeting the needs of individual team members, regardless of their roles, specialties, or resource needs.

The Drawbacks of Servant Leadership

A low-performing team may continue to suffer under the servant leadership style when collective team direction and guidance would be more effective. When top-down decisions must be made to align the entire team quickly, servant leadership in nursing is not recommended.

Examples of democratic leadership in nursing: When democratic leadership falls short

Of course, I have some examples of times when I failed to use democratic leadership in nursing. This has happened only a few times, I must say. These occurrences would primarily fall into one of the following categories:

  • The consequences of the decision were too severe, no one wanted to be a part of it. It has frequently been about letting people go.
  • The decision proved to be less significant than I had anticipated. The team couldn’t care less which way we went.
  • Because the team failed to contribute to the decision-making process, I had to adopt an autocratic, or rather pacesetting and directive, approach to getting things moving. This has frequently been the case when the decision’s outcome would have increased the requirements or targets for the team members themselves. Even if they believe they can meet the targets, they are hesitant to do so.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Democratic Leadership in Nursing

Democratic leadership is most common among HR professionals and others who prefer a participative management style. According to the company, this leadership style emphasizes that management encourages power distribution by requiring managers and employees to participate in decision-making actively.

While democratic leadership is popular because it allows everyone to voice their opinions and has other advantages, it also has some disadvantages. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the style and how businesses can use it to their advantage.

The Benefits of Democratic Leadership in Nursing

1.       It applies to almost all businesses

Solutions derived from a democratic approach tend to last a long time if they are revised regularly. Because the style encourages healthy engagement among team members, some standard mutual processes in most businesses are properly maintained. According to the writer and those who provide thesis writing assistance, team members are encouraged to collaborate with others in the company.

  1. Its ability to solve complex problems

Leaders who develop a democratic style are well-known for being excellent problem solvers, especially when dealing with complex issues. The style enables them to collaborate with others based on consensus and to acknowledge issues as they arise. The leaders challenge the team members to devise novel solutions in order to examine strategic and critical issues from various perspectives.

3.       It fosters a creative environment

The democratic leadership style is well-known for encouraging creative problem-solving and innovative input from designated employees. In short, this leadership style is especially suited to creative individuals who must think outside the box and deliver a master design.

4.       Strong communication among team members

Employees who work under this leadership style tend to be supportive and close to one another. Collaboration is valued, and all points of view are considered.

Disadvantages of Democratic Leadership in Nursing

1.       It develops regret

The primary benefit of this leadership style can also be the primary disadvantage. The style fosters an environment in which everyone can expect their ideas to be valued and implemented. In reality, only a few selected ones could be implemented from a large pool of opinions and recommendations, requiring leaders to spend more than enough time apologizing to individuals whose ideas were not considered in the game plan.

2.       It consumes more time than is available

The consensus approach frequently leads to procrastination, making it difficult for management to work within the allowed framework and timeline. As a result, it is a poor choice for time-sensitive or urgent deliveries.

3.       It takes time to make decisions

Extending on the previous point, it is evident that when management listens to a large number of people, the decision-making process will be indefinitely delayed. Furthermore, integrating all of the ideas on a single platform and then analyzing their applicability will necessitate a lot of patience and intelligent thinking.

4.       The element of ambiguity

Leaders who use a democratic leadership style can make mistakes or become indecisive, especially in critical situations requiring immediate responses. Such managers and leaders would fail miserably in situations requiring a more authoritarian approach.

The Advantages of Democratic Leadership in Nursing

Today, most corporate cultures employ democratic leadership styles and benefit significantly from them. However, management must strike the right balance and consider alternatives when the style is likely to fail. This is why companies should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of democratic leadership before incorporating it into their operational procedures and other business-related aspects. What is the Importance of Nurse Leadership Development?

Nurses are the foundation of every healthcare organization. Effective nurse leadership, according to Bell, is “critical for strengthening the integration of safe, effective, and high-quality care.” “As a result, this fosters a positive work environment and promotes positive patient outcomes and experiences” for both patients and staff.

The ability to transform both business practices and patient care is enormous. Strong leaders effectively manage their teams. Confident and capable employees who have faith in their leaders result in “increased staff productivity, morale, and job satisfaction,” according to Bell. That benefits everyone.


It goes without saying that nursing is a challenging profession. On a good day, nurses can work up to 12 hours on their feet in a shift, managing multiple patients with competing needs and demands. Nurses are required to work nights, weekends, and holidays. They must have an exceptional level of compassion and empathy for those around them, as well as razor-sharp attention to detail. If you find trouble completing a democratic leadership on the nursing essay, you can easily and reliably work with our professionals.

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